EVERY West Cork final brings its own unique memories and when it is a first-ever win for a club, the memories can be very special.
One would expect the amazing outpouring of joy and delight at the final whistle among the Kilmacabea suporters to be the most vivid memory of this final, and it was amazing, but for me the most abiding memory was a much more special one.
We were standing by the Kilmacabea dugout when that last whistle was blown and just in front of us was the Kilmacabea manager Kevin O’Driscoll.
When the final whistle sounded, the team mentors and subs all rushed onto the pitch to congratulate the players, but Kevin didn’t.
Instead, he immediately turned back towards the covered stand, looking for somebody and then rushed to the railing to share that golden moment with the people who meant most in the world to him and had shared his dream and his amazing journey for the past five years, his wife Peg and four children.
There they hugged and cried, and there in the midst of the bedlam and chaos was my abiding memory of Kilmacabea’s famous first-ever junior A football title.
Kevin O’Driscoll, the tough, driven Kilmacabea manager and trainer, so often in the wars for the past five years on behalf of his beloved Kilmacabea and the players in their quest to land that elusive first title, finally letting his defences down and showing the world that he wanted to share this precious moment with the people who were closest to his heart.
Right there and then Kevin showed us what the GAA is truly all about and what makes it so special, what separates it from the faults and failings of many modern sports.
In an age when money and greed dominate our biggest sports, the GAA at the club level remains loyal to its basic creed, for the love of the little village. At the heart of the village is the family and at the heart of the GAA is the family. Is there any greater joy after winning a final than sharing that moment with your own family, with the people who shared all your ups and downs on the journey to that moment in history?
Kevin O’Driscoll literally put his life on hold for the past five years to deliver the Mick McCarthy Cup to his beloved Kilmacabea.
It became a quest, an obsession, a first-ever junior A title for his club and he did it all for the great love of his native place. He could only do it because of the support he got from his own family, who bore the brunt of the quest.
Kevin O’Driscoll is a lucky man to have a family that shares a dream with him, wanted it as much as he did, rejoiced as much as he did on Sunday and were the first he turned to when that dream became a reality. You can also include his fellow mentors and other great Kilmacabea GAA people in a dream and commitment.
The family, the native place, that is what the GAA is all about and we should never, ever forget it.
The story of the historic Kilmacabea club is the story of many small clubs that are the lifeblood of the GAA. For every good year there are a dozen poor ones, for every final won there are a dozen early round defeats. The down years far outnumber the up times with the club going out of existence for a while, amalgamating, or struggling for survival in the lower grades. But there are always club members with a vision, a dream, that one day they will dine at the top table, will bring home the big silverware. These people of vision pass on the dream from one generation to another until one day a man comes along who takes that dream and turns it into reality. Such a man is Kevin O’Driscoll.
What we should never forget is that clubs like Castlehaven, Carbery Rangers, Gabriel Rangers and Ilen Rovers were once in the same position as Kilmacabea find themselves today. Their dream didn’t end with a South West junior A title, it expanded, developed and drove them on to greater achievements.
Whether it be Kevin O’Driscoll or a successor, the Kilmacabea dream must now be expanded and driven on. The journey, in truth, has no ending, it merely targets another destination.
And where Kilmac are today Kilbrittain footballers can be next year. Hope springs eternal and 2018 is another year.